'House passes real bill on false alarm

In a show of uncharacteristic bipatrisanship and courage, House members

this week voted unanimously against a bill that was never introduced by

a congressman who doesn't exist. Now Internet users can breathe a sigh of

relief — if they can stop laughing.

On a unanimous voice vote Tuesday, the House repudiated the fictitious

H.B. 602P, purportedly championed by a Rep. Tony Schnell, a killjoy congressman

who wanted to levy a fee for each minute Internet users were connected online.

Real House members delivered redemption — and killed rumors of such

a bill — in the form of H.R. 1291, which prohibits the Federal Communications

Commission from imposing any per-minute user fees for hooking up to the

Internet.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), one of 142 co-sponsors of H.R. 1291, estimated

that per-minute Internet charges could have cost average consumers $400

a year. Worse, Goodlatte fretted, per-minute Internet fees would disproportionately

impact lower-income families who use the Internet to search for jobs, not

to mention students who use the Internet for help with their homework.

Goodlatte, who admitted his office was beseiged with phone calls and

letters from constituents in his rural Virginia district who thought H.B.

602P was for real, vowed to continue fighting to ensure all Americans regardless

of geographic location or financial status "have access to the wonders that

await them online."

Not to be outdone by the humbugs on the Hill, the Executive Office of

the President endorsed H.R. 1291 as soon as it passed, pausing only to note

that "the bill enacts current policy."

"As the bill continues through the legislative process," the White House

added, it should be "amended to further clarify that Internet service providers

are exempt from all time-based access charges."

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